When I first checked into the roadside guesthouse, there was an old lady running the show and she seemed positively surly. Why didn’t she like the look of me? I was too tired to care. I paid my $13 and retreated to my room for some blissful hibernation.
The next morning, she was like a Hallmark grandma. Breakfast was a particularly delicious rice porridge with boiled eggs and toast and fried bread, and there was no way she was going to let me leave without eating a third boiled egg. I wonder what she had thought of me the day before? Whatever it was, my 5pm bedtime seemed to have mollified any concerns.
I got back on the road, with one of my favourite stretches ahead of me – the ferry across Sirikit Dam and then those sweet sweet twisties.
When I arrived at the reservoir, there was no sign of the ferry, so I chilled with a travelling monk and a couple of vanloads of holiday makers. The snack of the day was tiny sundried fish.
It was 10am and the vanloads of holiday makers were all on the beers, making the most of the sunshiny morning; why not indeed. For once, though, I declined the offer of breakfast beer. The road was calling.
On the remote road on the other side of the dam, I was flagged down at a police checkpoint. There was no traffic to disappear in, no credible way to play the ‘sorry officer I didn’t see you’ card. And no need either. Who wouldn’t be happy on this beautiful sunny morning? I pulled over, they took my temperature and asked me to fill in my travel information in the special covid app for Nan province. But really, they were more interested in the fact that I was a lady traveling alone around Thailand on a big bike: where had I been? Was I scared? Was I having fun? I answered in my broken Thai and, ever kind, they told me that my Thai was very good. When I had to fold down my number plate from its invisible position to put the plate details into the app, the head policeman saw and had a good laugh. Eventually it proved impossible for me to complete the required details online – because I had no overnight destination in Nan province – and everyone just shrugged and said it was fine. Don’t worry about it. They wished me a safe and happy journey, and off I went.
* * *
The final haul into Chiang Mai was a long day, and I had to stop a couple of times for self-imposed mandatory rest breaks. I wanted to keep on riding so I could get back and have a rest, but I could feel my concentration slipping. I went with my better judgement and spent some quality minutes half-napping on concrete outside a highway depot somewhere. Stretch your legs, drink some water, do a couple of push ups: it helps.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the final stretch into Chiang Mai had transformed from a roadworks nightmare to a race track dream. The 118 is finally finished; for my Australian audiences, the monumental nature of this transformation would be comparable to waking up one morning and finding no pot holes on Parramatta Road.
Dang. That road is NICE now. I flew down it… and smack into the peak hour traffic of Chiang Mai. Goddamn. As I came within a few kilometres of my destination, I made a quick left turn in traffic and I knew in my heart that I’d cut it too fine for safety; yes, the traffic here is always chaotic but you come to know the difference between good and bad risks in whatever setting you ride. This had been too close even by Thai standards, and I knew it. Don’t ride while tired, don’t ride while tired, don’t ride while tired.
I pulled safely into the parking space underneath my Chiang Mai lair. Everything was well in the world.